On March 12, during the Republican Party’s parliamentary election campaign, residents of Gndevaz village in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province met prime minister Karen Karapetyan on his way to Jermuk and demanded a meeting with the government officials who have given their approval to the exploitation of a gold mine in Amulsar, a mountain near Jermuk, and the construction of a cyanide plant only a kilometer away from Gndzevaz. The meeting which took place on April 2, however, left the villagers unsatisfied since it was being “ruled over” by Hayk Aloyan, managing director of Lydian Armenia – the company that wants to exploit the mine – and John Fung, an expert invited from South Africa and the gold mine’s future head metallurgist. The actual government representatives the villagers wanted to speak to, meanwhile, were seated in the first row and rarely got the chance to talk.
Cyanide is safe: the plant could be built in the center of Yerevan
At the meeting, Lydian’s new metallurgist showed the Gndevaz villagers a sideshow of the soon-to-be-built cyanide platform, insisting all the while that cyanide wastes were as safe for humans and the environment as, for example, remains of fish; “Cyanide contains nitrogen, which allows the environment to cope with it. The community could be right outside [the plant]. I’ve worked in these plants, I’ve slept in those plants; the cyanide table is away from any process and unless you’re standing over it, there’s nothing. [Cyanide] dilutes were quickly.”
“So you could build a cyanide plant in the center of Yerevan?” one of the villagers asked.
“You could. You really could,” Fung replied.
When asked by an Epress.am reporter why Lydian refuses to discuss the technical issues with Armenian specialists who have concerns about the mine exploitation and does so instead with Gndevaz villagers, the metallurgist did not give an answer. After the discussion, however, he approached our correspondent and said: “We are not monsters.”
Lydian will not insure the villagers’ health and harvest
One of the Gndzevaz villagers demanded that the exploiter provide them with health, crop and livestock insurance. Aloyan, however, insisted that I was not necessary since the mine exploitation was not going to harm the village. He added that Lydian only provided third-party insurance, which “is not required by law, but we do it anyway.”
“For example, if a Lydian car turns over and oil spills out of it and flows to the community, the company will provide a corresponding insurance of several million dollars. But we will not insure people and communities individually,” Aloyan said.
Another villager then demanded that Lydian take on an obligation to buy their harvest, which, after the exploitation of the mine, would become known as toxic and might not sell well in the market. “If you do not want to insure the harvest, then conclude agreements with land owners to buy the harvest if it does not have other takers,” he told Aloyan, who again refused to offer.
The villagers also raised the question as to why Lydian had already started construction works, carried out two explosions, and bought equipment if the exploitation approval was still being disputed in the Administrative Court.
“They probably know that Armenian courts will not issue verdicts against them,” someone from the audience commented.
Government representatives promised to develop new laws in the new parliament
The government officials did not answer a single question. They only said that since a cyanide plant was being built in Armenia for the first time, they would have to draft relevant laws and pass them for adoption in the parliament. Finally, newly-appointed assistant to the prime minister and former environmental activist Eric Grigoryan threatened to check the journalists’ articles on the meeting to make sure that the media did not “turn the discussion into a show.”
11:52 April 10, 2017